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  • Date publishedFriday, May 17, 2019

Wines from Santorini Volcanic Terroir

Santorini Volcanic Terroir
In , I was invited to a media luncheon featuring the wines of Santorini, Greece. The luncheon and tasting was hosted and led by Steve Kriaris, owner of Kolonaki Group, and Elias Karkabasis, owner and Sommelier of Pane Vino Trattoria & Wine Bar in Lindsay, Ontario. The venue was VOLOS, a fine Greek restaurant in the heart of downtown Toronto, and a place I realized upon arriving that I had dined here a few years ago with my wife.

Winemaking began in Santorini in 3500 BC, more than 5,000 thousand years ago. In the classic Greek era, the island was called Thera, while today is officially called Thira. The massive volcanic eruption of 1600 BC ultimately created island's caldera and shape as it is today. This explosion left behind a mixture of volcanic ash, pumice stone and pieces of solidified lava and sand, which together make up the soil of Santorini. This soil has little to no organic matter, but is rich in essential minerals, except potassium, thus creating wines with a naturally low pH level and high acidity. All of these factors contribute to creating agricultural products with a distinct profile.

Wines grown on volcanic soils also travel well. As such, when the Italians discovered Santorini in 1200 AD, they began trading wines from the island in amphoras. The wine that was traded the most was the delectably sweet Vinsanto dessert wine and it was exported throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. It was also sent back home to the Pope in Italy - a practice that still occurs today as The Pope receives the oldest and some of the finest Vinsanto directly from Santorini.

Most of the wine production on Santorini consists of white wines and dessert wines. Assyrtiko is the main white grape grown as it thrives in its birthplace, the volcanic island of Santorini. According to appellation rules, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Santorini white wines must contain a minimum of 75% Assyrtiko. Most often, it is produced as a single varietal wine, but can also contain the varietals Athiri and Aidani. Nykteri wines are also made with Assyrtiko and aged for at least three months is oak barrels. Vinsanto wines are naturally sweet dessert wines made from sun-dried grapes, must contain at least 51% Assyrtiko and be aged for at least 24 months in oak barrels, allowing the wine to develop additional complexities. PDO Santorini wines have great ageing potential due to their unique characteristics that stem from their volcanic origin, as well as their naturally high acidity and minerality.

All of the wines we tasted during the luncheon were from the Union of Santorini Cooperatives, also known as SantoWines. This co-operative was founded in 1947 and today it is the largest winery on the island, representing more than 1,200 active growers of grapes and other agricultural products. SantoWines is committed to safeguarding local traditional cultivations, producing high quality PDO Santorini wines, tomatoes, and fava, as well as promoting sustainable agriculture development.

In addition to the fine wines from Santorini, there were also a couple of other food items from this small and rich volcanic island. Santorini fava beans are scientifically known as "Lathyrus Clymenum L." and have been grown exclusively on the island for more than 3,500 years. These fava beans are considered a superfood as they have amazing nutritional value and contain more than 20% plant-based protein. Traditionally dried and aged under the sun, this legume has a rich, velvety texture and an earthy, slightly sweet taste.

Fava spread

Tomataki dip (top left) with Saganaki

Santorini tomatoes, commonly known as tomataki, are one-of-a-kind as they are dry-farmed on volcanic soils. They have thick skins with a ruffled shape, a concentrated full-body and a naturally sweet taste. Tomataki also have more vitamin C than regular tomatoes and more lycopene (antioxidant) than any other fruit or vegetable. Tomataki also makes a unique tomato paste, which we got to enjoy during lunch. It has a distinctive dark red colour, velvety texture, and a sweet and slightly minerally taste that was great for dipping with bread.

The wines, as well as the unique Santorini food items can all be purchased through Kolonaki Group. You can also purchase these wines at the LCBO Greece Destination outlet at 200 Danforth Avenue (Toronto), while the first Assyrtiko in the list below is widely available across Ontario.

Thank you Kolonaki Group for the invitation and the opportunity to try these delicious Santorini foods and wines. Lunch was delicious and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my lamb dish paired beautifully with these white wines. Wine reviews of these delicious wines are provided below and I trust that you will enjoy them as much as I dd. Opa!

Exohico (phyllo pastry and braised lamb) with Santo Grand Reserve Assyrtiko

Tasting Notes:

SANTO SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO 2017 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#459032) (XD) - $23.30
Medium+ intensity nose is clean with citrus, herbs and minerality with hints of saline. It is medium+ bodied and concentrated on the minerally-textured palate with nicely balanced aromas replays on the flavour profile. It is structured with vibrant acids, and has a long, juicy finish. Score: 89 pts

Santo Santorini Assyrtiko 2017 (89 pts)Santo Nykteri 2017 (90 pts)

SANTO NYKTERI 2017 - PDO Santorini, Greece (XD) - $33.95
A blend of 75% Assrytiko, 15% Athiri, and 10% Aidani that was harvested at night to keep freshness. Spent 3 months in oak barrels. This is ripe with roasted pineapple, stone fruit, ripe apple, pear, citrus, and melon, with subtle oak influence. All of which comes through on the vibrant palate with lively acids. Clean, elegant and nicely balanced with excellent finish length. Score: 90 pts

SANTO GRANDE RESERVE ASSYRTIKO 2016 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#814186) (XD) - $57.95
This Assyrtiko spent 1 year in French oak barrels. The medium-high intensity nose has a subtle oak influence with Meyer lemon citrus, baked apple, butter, and stone fruit aromas and flavours. It is medium-full bodied and structured with vanilla notes appearing on the palate. There is a nice mineral texture to go along with juicy acids. Long on the finish. Score: 91 pts

Santo Grande Reserve Assyrtiko 2016 (91 pts)Santo Vinsanto 2011 (89 pts)

SANTO VINSANTO 2011 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#654722) (S) (500 mL) - $67.95
Sun-dried 85% Assyrtiko and 15% Aidani grapes that spent 3 years in oak barrels. Deep orange-red-brown colour. Offers complex aromas of sweet spice, golden raisin, fig, dates, plum, honeyed, brown sugar and hints of hazelnut. Full-bodied with more raisin, fig, and sweet plum notes on the palate, with very good acidity and flavours lingering on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedTuesday, August 27, 2013

Aug. 31 Wine Picks: 90 Plus Wines + Champagne

LCBO Wine Picks: August 31, 2013 Vintages Release
The next Vintages wine release will be on shelves at the LCBO on . The main feature in this edition (which is done annually) focuses on wines from around the globe that scored 90+ points.

In all, there are 30 wines that are part of the "90+" wine feature. If you're looking for a big, oaky, Chardonnay, then look no further than Gallo Chardonnay from Russian River Valley. If you prefer the less oak in your Chardonnay, then I invite you to check out Maison Champy's 1er Cru - your wallet may become lighter, but you won't be disappointed. Both can be aged for 3-4 years. In other whites, there is a very ageable Riesling that is slightly off-dry from Alsace that can be enjoyed now or in a decade.

In reds from the 90+ feature, fans of Malbec will find a fruity version from Achaval Ferrer. There's also finally an Australian Shiraz worthy of my recommendation that is relatively easy on your wallet and will provide pleasure. And continuing to reach our shores are the newly-released 2011 (Southern) Rhône wines, with the Perrin Peyre Blanche consisting of a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. From Northern Rhône is the Pierre Amadieu Gigondas that it is also a 2011 and a blend of Grenache and Syrah. Last but not least the 100% Aglianico from Rivera that is already 7 years old, but will age gracefully for almost another decade.

The secondary feature in this release coincides with TIFF and features the big names from the world of Champagne - Dom Perignon, Cristal, Laurent-Perrier, Taittinger and Billecart-Simon.

From the rest of the release, there is a 100% Tempranillo from Spain, and the Mandrarossa from Sicily is 100% Nero d'Avola. Both of these wines can be enjoyed now or over the next 2 years.

That's it for this week. Enjoy my wine picks and I'll see you in September!

Red Wine:
  • BARCO DE PIEDRA TINTO 2011 - DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (#336289) (XD) - $17.00
  • PERRIN PEYRE BLANCHE CAIRANNE CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2011 - AC, Rhône, France (#650960) (XD) - $17.95
  • RIVERA CAPPELLACCIO RISERVA AGLIANICO 2006 - DOC Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy (#305276) (XD) - $17.95
  • MANDRAROSSA CARTAGHO 2009 - IGT Sicilia, Italy (#346593) (XD) - $19.95
  • ACHAVAL FERRER MALBEC 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#024737) (XD) - $24.95
  • NUGAN ESTATE MCLAREN PARISH VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2010 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#072603) (D) - $24.95
  • PIERRE AMADIEU ROMANE MACHOTTE GIGONDAS 2011 - AC, Rhône, France (#017400) (XD) - $24.95

White Wine:
  • SANTO ASSYRTIKO 2011 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#627760) (XD) - $16.95  reviewed here
  • CALAMUS RIESLING 2011 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#158642) (XD) - $16.95
  • LAILEY CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#193482) (XD) - $19.95
  • GALLO FAMILY LAGUNA VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2009 - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#544981) (XD) - $19.95
  • BOLLIG-LEHNERT TRITTENHEIMER APOTHEKE RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2011 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#338186) (M) - $20.95
  • ZIND HUMBRECHT TURCKHEIM RIESLING 2010 - AC Alsace, France (#031039) (D) - $26.95
  • CHAMPY PERNAND-VERGELESSES EN CARADEUX 1ER CRU 2010 - AC, Burgundy, France (#344143) (XD) - $49.95

The rest of the wines from this release can be found here.

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  • Date publishedThursday, January 3, 2013

Jan. 5 Wine Picks: Smart Buys

Cover photo of January 5, 2013 Vintages Magazine
Apologies for the really delayed post, as I've been under the weather out here in cold & rainy California! As per the usual, the first Vintages release of the new year is always titled "Smart Buys". New wines will be in LCBO outlets across Ontario on . I will keep this short as I really need to get back into bed.

The best buy in the release is a fantastic Barolo for under $30. Italy shines through with 3 other reds as well. In whites, there are 2 German wines, plus a delicious extra-dry Assyrtiko from Greece. It's great to see the Flourish Vidal Icewine back on Vintages shelves - superb QPR at $17.95!

There is also a very nice feature on the Cabernet Franc varietal and it's impact here in Ontario. When I first tasted Ontario Cab Francs many years ago, I did not like them and tended to avoid them whenever possible. But over the last few years, I decided to revisit this varietal and now passionately seek them out. They are quite delicious! Enjoy my picks for this week and Happy New Year to all! I'm off to bed!

Red Wine:
  • DE MARTINO LEGADO RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2010 - DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#236059) (XD) - $16.95
  • DONNACHIARA IRPINIA AGLIANICO 2008 - DOC, Campania, Italy (#262956) (XD) - $18.95
  • LA SALA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#303487) (XD) - $19.95
  • ARNALDO CAPRAI ROSSO MONTEFALCO 2009 - DOC, Umbria, Italy (#303065) (XD) - $19.95
  • CAVE SPRING ESTATE CABERNET FRANC 2007 - Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#072751) (XD) - $24.95
  • LA PIEVE BAROLO 2008 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#213132) (XD) - $28.95
  • DOMAINE BESANCENOT BEAUNE THEURONS 1ER CRU 2009 - AC, Burgundy, France (#299909) (XD) - $35.95

White Wine:
  • TORRES VIÑA ESMERALDA 2011 - DO Catalunya, Spain (#113696) (D) - $13.95
  • WERNER ANSELMANN EDESHEIMER ROSENGARTEN SIEGERREBE SPÄTLESE 2011 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#910554) (MS) - $14.95
  • DR. HERMANN ERDENER TREPPCHEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2007 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#181917) (MS) - $16.95
  • SANTO ASSYRTIKO 2011 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#627760) (XD) - $16.95
  • FOXGLOVE CHARDONNAY 2010 - Central Coast, California, USA (#262022) (D) - $19.95

  • FLOURISH VIDAL ICEWINE 2008 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#222356) (S) (200 mL) - $17.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • TAYLOR FLADGATE FINE WHITE PORT - DOC Douro, Portugal (#069856) (S) - $15.95

The rest of the wines from this release can be found here.

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  • Date publishedWednesday, February 24, 2016

Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2015 - Review

Amsterdam BrewHouse Jalapeño Chicken + Waffle
On , I attended VIP Night at the 21st Annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo that was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

I arrived early as per the norm, however, unlike last year, there was no complimentary seminar before the show, so I waited patiently for the doors to open. Once inside just after 6pm, the place was already quite busy and with more than 1,500 wines, beers, spirits and gourmet foods to choose from, I knew I would have to pick my spots wisely.

The first booth that struck my eye was Greek wine booth by Kolonaki Group. I don't recall ever seeing Greek wines at this show previously, but this time there was no missing it - they had a very nice, large display. More importantly, the wines being poured were very good to excellent. Wine reviews are provided below for a few of these wines.

The next surprise on my tour through the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo was the return of the Iconoclast Syrah at the Creekside Estate Winery booth. I had previously tasted the 2012 Iconoclast Syrah and was told that at the time that it wouldn't be made again. I am very happy to report that they changed their mind and brought back the Iconoclast label for another vintage. This Syrah is their middle tier wine that slides between their classic Syrah and the premium Broken Press Syrah. Currently only available through the winery, I hope this will one day makes its way to LCBO shelves for wider enjoyment. Conveniently located across the Creekside booth was another local winery - Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery. I was able to taste through Hidden Bench's entire offering at the show and, as always, the wines were excellent.

I also tasted some fine Austrian wines poured by Le Sommelier at the Advantage Austria booth, some of which should make their way on to VINTAGES shelves in 2016. After hearing quite a few nice things about one of Ontario's newest wineries that opened just over a year ago, I knew I had to make at least a brief stop at the Two Sisters Vineyards booth. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the sisters, Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, as she took me through a flight of their well-made red wines. I hope I get a chance to visit this exciting winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake soon to taste their entire portfolio of wines.

My final wine stop of the evening was at the Wines of Germany booth to taste some fine Riesling. As per the norm, the wines I tasted from Wines of Germany were excellent. I also loved the fact that the folks at Wines of Germany always seem to pour quality wines that are available for purchase at the LCBO or will be available soon.

The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo is mostly about the wine for me as I usually run out of time before I get the chance to try many of the mouth-watering gourmet food offerings. This year, I managed to try the delicious jalapeño chicken & waffle (twice!) at the Amsterdam Brewery booth. It doesn't seem as though this item is on their menu at the Amsterdam BrewHouse on Queen's Quay, but I hope they offer it eventually as it was tasty! Based on this yummy item, I have high hopes for the rest of their menu and hope to visit the restaurant for the first time ever in the near the future.

A favourite stop of mine for food at this show is the Fire in the Kitchen booth where they offer a multitude of yummy, specialty seasonings. This year, they were offering a grilled cheese stuffed with chicken and a marinade heavy on pickles. I added some of their hot sauce and it was delicious!

To end the night, I tried to get some ice cream from the Marble Slab Creamery, but the line (although not very long) was moving very, very slowly. With only one person preparing sweet creations, while the other person was taking her precious time to update the menu board even though the show was closing in 10 minutes, it was painful to wait so I ended up departing the line and headed to Amsterdam Brewery for a second helping of the chicken & waffle.

Maybe it was just me, but food options seemed to be fewer than previous years. Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, making a few new friends while also re-connecting with industry folk that I only seem to see at this show. As always, it was great to see the usual industry folk that I see throughout the year - you know who you are.

Looking forward to more good times in 2016!

Tasting Notes:

SANTO ASSYRTIKO 2014 - PDO Santorini, Greece (D) - $17.95
Medium+ intensity aromas featuring citrus, orange and grapefruit aromas which echo very nicely on the ripe, slightly salty palate. It has fresh acidity and very good length on the finish. Quite enjoyable and has good crowd appeal. Score: 89 pts

ARGYROS SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO 2014 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#387365) (XD) - $21.95
Tasted this last May and still captivating today. Aroma and flavour profile hasn't changed, still has bracing acids and fine length. Score: 90 pts

BOUTARI GRANDE RESERVE XINOMAVRO 2010 - PDO Naoussa, Greece (#140111) (D) - $18.95
Medium intensity aromas of cherry, strawberry, some florals and sweet spices. Supple tannins on the medium-bodied palate with very nice aroma replays. Acids are nicely balanced. Finishes long and dry with a hint of mineral notes. Good tannic structure will allow this to age well. Drink now or over the next 6-8 years. The 2008 vintage of this wine came to VINTAGES in November. Score: 90 pts

Boutari Grande Reserve Xinomavro 2010 - PDO Naoussa, Greece (90 pts)

SANTO VINSANTO 2006 - PDO Santorini, Greece (S) (500 mL) - $35.95
Lovely medium-to-high intensity aromas of musky spice, burnt sugar. It's full-bodied with very sweet flavours of caramel, honey, lemon twist, burnt sugar and sweet spices. Somewhat chalky texture with good acidity keeps it from being cloying. Excellent length on the long, smooth finish. Score: 91 pts

Santo Vinsanto 2006 - PDO Santorini, Greece (91 pts)

CREEKSIDE ICONOCLAST NIAGARA SYRAH 2013 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#471797) (XD) - $22.95
Medium-to-high intensity nose featuring typical character of black peppercorn, spice, charcuterie, smoked meat, and black fruit notes that also appear in a balanced manner on the palate. Very good acids keep things fresh. Medium-level, gritty tannins will allow for ageing. Finishes long and smooth. Delicious! Score: 89 pts

Creekside Iconoclast Niagara Syrah 2013 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)

HIDDEN BENCH CHARDONNAY 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#068817) (XD) - $28.95
Mild oak, stone fruit, apple, pear and a hint of honeyed fruit aromas from the glass. It's medium-bodied with delicious aroma replays plus notes of lime on the palate. Showing very good complexity, balanced acidity and finishes long. Score: 90 pts

HIDDEN BENCH PINOT NOIR 2013 - Unfiltered, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#274753) (XD) - $29.95
A fairly lifted nose featuring beetroot, smoke, and cherry that also come through very nicely on the light-to-medium bodied palate. It has balanced acidity and a light tannic grip. Well-balanced overall and finishes long. Score: 90 pts

HIDDEN BENCH TERROIR CACHÉ 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#505610) (XD) - $38.20
Medium-to-high intensity aromas of plum, sandalwood, dark cherry and blackberry. Full-bodied on the palate with sweet tannin and spice flavours to go along with aroma replays. Bright acids. Medium+ level tannins need some time to integrate. Finishes long. Feels disjointed right now. Cellar this one away for at least 2 years. Score: 89 pts

Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (90 pts)Hidden Bench Pinot Noir 2013 - Unfiltered, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (90 pts)Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)

WIENINGER 2014 - DAC Wiener Gemischter Satz, Vienna, Austria (D) - $21.95
A field blend of at least 10 indigenous grape varieties, this white wine has complex notes of mineral, funk and citrus, as well as some chalky minerality on the palate. It has bright acids and some sweetness on the palate that linger on the long finish. Available in consignment via Le Sommelier. Score: 89 pts

LOIMER LANGENLOIS GRÜNER VELTLINER 2014 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (#142240) (XD) - $21.95
Medium+ intensity nose featuring complex aromas of mineral, lemon drop, lime, and hints of herbs. The rounded palate offers mineral, lemon, and citrus notes. Balanced acidity provides freshness. Finishes long. Will be in LCBO VINTAGES in Spring 2016. Score: 88+ pts

Loimer Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2014 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (88+ pts)Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2013 - DAC Burgenland, Austria (90 pts)

HEINRICH BLAUFRÄNKISCH 2013 - DAC Burgenland, Austria (XD) - $24.95
Organic and biodynamic, it is made using a grape varietal also known as Lemberger. It has medium+ intensity aromas of cherry, beetroot, freshly tilled earth and forest floor. The palate is medium+ bodied with more cherry and beetroot flavours. Elegant tannins and balanced acidity. Finishes long. Available in consignment via Le Sommelier. Score: 90 pts

TWO SISTERS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $62
Medium+ intensity aromas of black pepper, cassis, and oak spice. It's medium-to-full bodied with spice and cassis flavours leading the way on the balanced palate. Acids are bright and mouth-watering, while the medium+ level tannins provide good structure. Excellent length on the finish. Score: 90+ pts

Two Sisters Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (90+ pts)

RUPPERTSBERGER LINSENBUSCH GEWÜRZTRAMINER SPÄTLESE 2014 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#320473) (MS) - $17.95
Lovely, elegant nose of rose petals, lychee and honey that also show up on the sweet palate. Balanced acids and very good length on the finish. Released in VINTAGES December 12th. Score: 88 pts

Ruppertsberger Linsenbusch Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2014 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (88 pts)Hiestand Riesling Trocken 2013 - Qualitätswein, Rheinhessen, Germany (88 pts)

HIESTAND RIESLING TROCKEN 2013 - Qualitätswein, Rheinhessen, Germany (#424515) (D) - $19.95
Interesting ripe, melon, pink grapefruit, orange citrus and stony minerality aromas that make an appearance on the slightly honeyed palate. Acids are well-balanced, while the finish is long. Released in VINTAGES October 17th. Score: 88 pts

FRITZ WILLI RIESLING 2013 - Mosel, Germany (#436873) (M) - $18.00
Orange, mineral and herbal aromas of medium intensity. It has stony, mineral, schist flavours joining the orange citrus aroma profile. It's medium-sweet with very good acidity and a minerally, long finish. Released in VINTAGES November 14th. Score: 88 pts

Fritz Willi Riesling 2013 - Mosel, Germany (88 pts)Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese 2013 - Mosel, Germany (92 pts)

Fine mineral, orange, citrus and petrol aromas emanate from the glass and echo very nicely on the very sweet palate. The acids are vibrant, yet balanced. Excellent length on the finish. Will provide joy for at least a decade. Score: 92 pts

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